Gastric Bypass and Anemia

Gastric bypass surgery has become an increasingly safe and popular procedure. It is now considered the gold standard for the treatment of obesity and obesity-related health conditions. As with any procedure, there are risks and complications to be aware of.

Anemia is a blood disorder in which you lack an adequate amount of healthy red blood cells. This is a common occurrence in patients who have had gastric bypass or mini gastric bypass surgeries.

Iron deficiency and Iron deficiency anemia are commonly confused. Iron deficiency is caused by the lack of Iron intake. Iron deficiency with anemia is caused by both lack of Iron intake and diminished blood cell levels.

In this article, we will look at the common causes behind anemia in gastric bypass patients, the effect it can have on the body, and methods of prevention. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with anemia following the gastric bypass procedure, take note of the prevention tips here. We will also cover which symptoms to look out for if you’re worried about your iron levels.

Risk of Anemia after Gastric Bypass Surgery

It is common protocol to correct any deficiency or low vitamin and mineral levels before bariatric surgery. Iron deficiency is included in this protocol.

However, Anemia is still a common complication of Gastric Bypass Surgery, particularly in women. For women who are postmenopausal, the likelihood of becoming anemic after receiving gastric bypass surgery is more than 50%.

Although women are at a higher risk, anyone who undergoes bariatric surgery is at risk of Iron deficiency. 

Because gastric bypass can affect the way your body digests and metabolizes nutrients, patients who have received the surgery need to pay close attention to their iron levels. There are several preventative measures patients can take to lower their risk of post-surgery iron deficiency and anemia.

There are many risks associated with prolonged anemia, such as fatigue, arrhythmia, heart complications, and in severe cases, death. It is highly encouraged to closely monitor iron and blood cell levels following major surgery.

 

Causes of Anemia after Bypass Surgery

Numerous contributing factors can result in anemia. Many types of anemia are caused by the effects of gastric bypass surgery, the most common being iron deficiency anemia.

This is caused by the changes to your digestive tract and metabolic system after surgery. Gastric bypass surgery significantly shrinks the size of the stomach and bypasses a section of the small intestine where many nutrients are absorbed. 

While this limits the amount of food an individual can eat, it enables weight loss. The body is unable to adequately absorb nutrients at the same rate it could before the surgery, which is the common cause of anemia. 

Ulcers and internal bleeding following surgery can also lead to iron deficiency anemia. 

Who is at risk of anemia after gastric bypass surgery?

  • Postmenopausal women
  • Individuals with a history of iron deficiency and anemia
  • Patients with blood disorders like hemophilia
  • Individuals with poor dietary intake

 

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

Following gastric bypass surgery, it is required to monitor yourself for any symptoms of anemia. In the weeks immediately following surgery, it will be difficult to eat high-iron foods, such as red meat. This is another reason why bariatric specific multivitamin supplements are required for life. 

There are many symptoms that can indicate anemia. Some of these symptoms are mild, while others are more severe. It’s important to be on the lookout for any of these symptoms as they will vary from patient to patient.

Some symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Cold extremities
  • Chest pains and tightness

Gastric bypass forums are useful resources for people as many users will openly share their experiences following bariatric surgery.

Treating Anemia in Gastric Bypass Patients

If you have been diagnosed with anemia following gastric bypass surgery, there are several treatments available. The treatment will depend on the cause.

Iron deficiency anemia may require additional supplements, dietary changes and/or IV infusions. Your healthcare provider will order tests to determine the underlying cause. 

IV infusions are likely in severe cases. Routine follow-ups are to be expected following this kind of treatment.

There are other nutritional anemias that can occur including those from folate or vitamin B12 deficiency. Both of these deficiencies can result from poor dietary intake and malabsorption after gastric bypass surgery. 

In any case of deficiency, a regimen of supplements will likely be prescribed. Iron soft chews will help to replace iron levels in the body. You can also find corrective supplements like sublingual B12 and B50 complex.

FAQ for Gastric Bypass

How long is gastric bypass surgery procedure?

Gastric bypass procedures typically last 1 to 3 hours. Patients will undergo a general anesthetic for the procedure. Normal recovery rates will allow a patient to be discharged within 2-3 days of the operation.

How to prevent skin sagging after gastric bypass?

Major weight loss has been associated with damage to the skin, specifically elastin fibers and collagen. Regular exercise and toning have been shown to greatly diminish skin sagging after dramatic weight loss.

It is possible that consuming collagen peptide supplements during rapid weight loss can help improve collagen levels in the skin that may become damaged and in turn, improving skin elasticity. There have also been positive reports of people with a high vitamin-C diet combating skin sagging.

For people with excessive skin sagging, surgery may be an appropriate option. 

Will I get gallstones after gastric bypass surgery?

There is a relationship between gallstones and gastric bypass surgery. Rapid weight loss can result in a higher risk of gallstones. Gallstone formation can be found in 35-38% of weight loss surgery patients.

If someone has a history of gallstones, the surgeon may even recommend removing the gallbladder during weight loss surgery. 

There are preventative measures, such as anti-gallstone medications following surgery. Dietary intake can also assist in lowering your risk. Consuming healthy fats, high fiber foods, and whole grains can lower your risk. High calcium intake can also pose a problem with gallstone formation, so you may have to work with your Registered Dietitian for dietary advice. 

 

**This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition. A qualified healthcare professional can best assist you in deciding whether a dietary supplement is suitable based on your individual needs.